A disturbing report today of a South African family brutally murdered by their gardener and domestic helper’s son. The details are gruesome and one can only begin to imagine the terror they endured before death mercifully took them. Having worked for a South African company in the past and once enjoying the help of a South African secretary, I must say I am saddened but not surprised by this report. The savagery of these murderers beggars belief but for them it is simply how they do things. The gangs roaming the streets of South African cities are bad enough, but these were trusted employees and relatives of employees. People who benefited from being employed by the people they killed.

One could argue this is what happens when 40 years of apartheid and a couple of hundred years of white minority rule ends. One of the smiling scumbags claimed it was in return for how they had been mistreated by the woman they raped and murdered. Nothing justifies what they did and I seriously doubt she treated them as badly as is often made out in film and story, the archetypal ‘Boer Mevrou’ hating and bastardizing the poor ‘kaffir’. We saw similar atrocities carried out by order of the government of Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe and that country is a basketcase. But blacks suffer there as much as whites and the same is true in South Africa where the rape of black girls and women is about the worst in the world for numbers. The mentality of those ‘men’ means the woman is a second class citizen, a beast of burden, a receptacle. HIV/AIDs is used as a weapon, intentional infection is a game to some carriers. Don’t forget we get more and more African refugees in our country and there has been problems with some. Even documentaries showing groups of young men living together and virtually starving because they don’t have a female to cook for them. They don’t know how to cook and besides, it is beneath their dignity as proud men. Not to mention those who have experienced the horrors of war as impressed soldiers, some as young as 6. The problem is identifying the ones who are potential time bombs from the many decent, law abiding, respectful men and women seeking a better life here in Australia.

It is not a black-v-white thing because we read of similar atrocities committed on their own kind in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and basically all over sub-Saharan Africa. Black Africa. So is it a post-colonial thing? Or is it an African thing? Living where I do it should be no surprise I know several black Africans from different countries, some have been through civil war and others came here as skilled migrants. All of them are wonderful people. Period. Bad is not a skin tone thing. No race has the monopoly of nasty. People are pretty nasty to each other all over the world, regardless of race but it seems in Africa many are still as we were a thousand years ago. By we, I mean Europeans. We were pretty nasty to each other, ruthless, savage and so on and the Catholic Church led the way, torturing and killing and stealing in the name of God! In Asia it was no different and the same for South and North America. It is within all of us to be bad, just some are worse than others and some don’t take much to kick off. William Golding wrote of this in ‘Lord of the Flies’ and further back Joseph Conrad had ‘Heart of Darkness’.

Yet there is no denying that it seems to be worse in Africa. Drowning a boy in boiling water! I have felt fear in my lifetime and once or twice I would say it came close to terror, but never actually got there. I have feared for my life but only once did I think I might die.  At times like those the mind will choose to make the body do one of three things: fight, flee or freeze. Armchair experts will second guess such situations and say what they would have done and how it would have worked and so on but the reality is there is no guarantee you will do what needs to be done to live. Even then, it might not work.

When the chips are down, we like to think we will rise to the occasion yet mostly we tend to fall back to the level of our training.

What have you trained your kids to do in an emergency? Have you taught them anything or do you hope emergencies will never happen to them? Just as bad people can be any religion, race, role or relation, emergencies do happen all the time. I once met a South African migrant, been in Sydney 18 hours and was looking to buy a car from me. He left his last car, a Mercedes, back in Johannesburg. Or rather he left it with the three bandits who pointed guns at him and his two daughters when they stopped to obey a traffic signal. They told him to get out of the car and they were going to take it and his two teenage girls or he would be shot. He told them they could have the car, his wallet and phone but they might as well shoot him now because he would not allow them to take his daughters while there was breath left in his body. As he told me this I could tell he was not making it up. I asked him when did that happen and he replied “about five hours before we got the plane here!” He was lucky they took the car and drove off. He got a taxi home with his girls, told the wife to pack a bag and grab the passports and they went to the airport. First flight out was to Singapore, then he transferred to a Sydney flight. He wasn’t even sure if they turned off the TV.

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